Best of our wild blogs: 6 Nov 11

Community in Nature: an exciting new outreach effort!
from wild shores of singapore

Life History of the Singapore Four-Line Blue
from Butterflies of Singapore

Gardening for birds: 6. Climbers, Scramblers and Epiphytes
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Marine life at Keppel Bay wins!
from wild shores of singapore and Hantu Blog

Flooding in Bangkok: appeal for donations via Baan Arsa Jaidee
from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

Malaysia must take action to avoid extinction of its last rhinos
from news by Rhett Butler

Read more!

Bukit Brown: Room for some flexibility

Some requests can be accommodated but country's needs must prevail: Tan Chuan-Jin

Yen Feng Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

Bukit Brown will not be spared the bulldozers, but dismayed heritage groups and fans of the 89-year-old cemetery have at least some reason to cheer up now.

The good news: the promise of more room to manoeuvre when it comes to documenting the estimated 5,000 graves that will likely give way to a new road.

In an interview last week, Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said he would do his part to ensure that the affected graves would be documented in a thorough manner, even as the roadworks - slated to begin in 2013 - would proceed as planned.

'Dr Hui and his team will take the lead and work out the details, and we will support that,' said Mr Tan, referring to Dr Hui Yew- Foong, an anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, who has been tasked by the Government to lead the cemetery's preservation effort.

There had been criticism that the Government should have consulted heritage groups before announcing the road plans. To that, Mr Tan said: 'We could have done better, a bit more of these conversations and briefings when we announced some of these things, maybe get more stakeholders, and earlier.'

The crux of his message - in his first media interview about Bukit Brown since the roadworks were announced on Sept 12 - appeared to be one of compromise. 'Going forward, we can do a bit more. I think that's quite doable,' he said.

Although Mr Tan, who is also Minister of State for Manpower, did not commit to specifics, heritage groups have in recent weeks made their wish list known publicly.

Top on the list is a re-alignment of the road, and more time for historians to document the graves; others include the storage, or relocation, of certain tombstones, and clusters of green areas to be kept as 'cemetery-parks'.

To these, Mr Tan was reluctant to say yes but he left the questions hanging, adding that he would consult Dr Hui on these matters.

On whether the road alignment could be altered if important graves are found to be in the way, Mr Tan said there would be 'some flexibility'.

He said that while he understood the public's desire to preserve what is historically meaningful, that desire must square with reality - that Singapore simply cannot afford to be overly sentimental when it comes to land.

Unlike countries like the United States, all of Singapore's needs - defence, housing, water catchment - have to be 'squeezed' into this tiny island.

'If I give up this space for this, it will be one piece of land less for something else... That's the reality that we need to contend with.

'The point is, how do we develop (land) sensitively,' he added.

It had taken the authorities three years to decide on the road at Bukit Brown, after throwing out more costly and complex alternatives such as tunnels and viaducts, he said. Plans to build the road were finalised only this August, and it was a decision not taken lightly, he emphasised.

In the coming months, Mr Tan said, he hoped the buzz about Bukit Brown will develop in constructive ways. For its part, the Government would also work harder to engage the public sooner, and on more issues - although not on so many projects that policymaking 'grinds to a halt', he added.

'You can't always consult, but there is a lot of space that we can,' said Mr Tan, who has led talks with stakeholders of the Rail Corridor project.

'It will take longer... but I think you will get better-quality policies.'

He encouraged more people to come forward and work with the authorities in striking a balance between development and conservation for Bukit Brown, although he did not elaborate. 'I don't just want to listen, I am able to do something about it. Not everything, but quite a number of areas, I can.

'I think it will work out. I think it will work out okay.'

Road through cemetery 'least impactful option'
Royston Sim Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

The Government could not consult the public on its road-building plans for Bukit Brown because it could lead to price speculation on local properties, said Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin.

And it was a decision that took the authorities three years to arrive at, as it sought to find the least impactful way of dealing with increasing traffic congestion in Lornie Road, said Mr Tan.

One option was to expand Lornie Road, but that was ruled out, as cutting away trees for the widening would disrupt the ecological balance of MacRitchie nature reserve, he said.

Tunnels were a no-go as well, as building one using a cut-and-cover method would cause more damage than a surface road.

And tunnel-boring, the method used to construct MRT tunnels, has never been done on such a large scale here.

As for a viaduct, a stable platform would have to be built below before the structure could be constructed.

The cemetery would thus still be affected even if a viaduct was constructed in place of a new road.

The widening of Lornie Road in 2009 was a temporary measure before the authorities settled on a more permanent solution, Mr Tan said.

He noted that apart from Lornie Road, which has seven lanes, all other roads on the Outer Ring Road, a network around the city, have been expanded to dual four-lane carriageways.

The Land Transport Authority said there are between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles an hour now using Lornie Road during peak hours. Traffic is expected to increase by between 20 and 30 per cent by 2020.


May 30: The Straits Times (ST) reports that Bukit Brown has been earmarked for housing.

June 11: Responding to ST Forum writers expressing dismay, URA says Bukit Brown is needed for future housing, and that many such 'difficult trade-off decisions' are made in land-scarce Singapore.

Sept 12: URA announces dual four-lane road for Bukit Brown in 2013. Heritage groups say they need more time to document the graves.

Sept 27: Following more letters in ST, the LTA says the new road is needed to ease traffic in Lornie Road and serve the area's future road plans.

Oct 19: ST publishes a letter by descendants of famous pioneers, including Chew Boon Lay and Tan Tock Seng, who want Bukit Brown left alone.

Oct 21: Singapore Heritage Society issues a statement on how the group was not consulted over whether Bukit Brown should be developed.

Oct 24: Officials meet privately with heritage groups to explain the Government's reasons for developing a new road, and reaffirm plans to go ahead.

Oct 26: Heritage groups and the preservation project leader, appointed by the Government, raise concerns over insufficient time given to document the graves.

Nov 3: Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin explains the reasons for developing Bukit Brown in a media interview.

Many step forward to join project
Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

More than 150 people have signed up to help document the Bukit Brown graves since the team leading the effort put out a call for volunteers last month.

Comprising volunteers and paid workers, the majority are Chinese and under 40, with women outnumbering men by about two to one. A quarter are students.

Dr Hui Yew-Foong, who is leading the documentation effort, said he was overwhelmed by the response.

'Many are motivated by a monumental sense of our common heritage,' said the anthropologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Both volunteers and paid field workers will be involved in documenting around 5,000 graves likely to be affected by the roadworks. They will use writing and visual tools, such as cameras and geographic information system technology.

Starting later this month, teams of two will be sent out daily to cover a set number of graves, said Dr Hui.

One member will take photographs, while the other will copy Chinese inscriptions that do not photograph well.

Dr Hui said a workshop will be held in a few weeks' time to prepare those working on the project.

'Field workers should also be prepared to work through uneven terrain, and endure the sun, rain and mosquitoes,' he said.

Encouraged by the healthy response so far, Dr Hui, who had expressed reservations earlier about completing the work in time, told The Sunday Times: 'I am now more confident we'll get the job done.'

To be part of the Bukit Brown project, go to, or e-mail

Ancestors found at Bukit Brown
Buzz over road-building plans for the cemetery hastens descendants of famous Singapore pioneers to locate their loved ones' graves
Natasha Ann Zachariah Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

Housewife Victoria Tan knows Kheam Hock Road well. After all, it was named after her great-grandfather, a businessman born in 1862.

But she had no idea he was buried at the Bukit Brown Cemetery, whose entrance is by Kheam Hock Road, until she saw photos of his tombstone online. Ms Tan, who is in her 40s, says: 'When I saw the picture of his grave, I was very surprised because I was told by my elders that he was not buried there.'

Last Saturday, she set out on her own, braving wet weather and the hilly, forested conditions of the cemetery, to hunt for his grave from a map she found online drawn up by tombstone hunters, brothers Raymond and Charles Goh.

She says: 'After all these years of not knowing where he is, I just had to visit him to pay my respects even though I have never met him before.'

Her interest comes after the Government last month confirmed plans to build a dual four-lane road through Bukit Brown Cemetery from 2013. About 5 per cent of the more than 100,000 graves will be exhumed.

This has sparked controversy, with some wishing to conserve the cemetery.

After news of the road plans were announced, many families have approached the Goh brothers for help in finding the resting places of their famous ancestors. They had been unable to find the graves on their own in the vast cemetery spanning 86ha.

Mr Charles Goh, 43, who is a construction company safety manager, says: 'Before news about the new road, we got very few calls from people who wanted to find their ancestors. Now, we get at least 10 calls a week.'

One such person is Madam M. Ong, the great-granddaughter of Cheang Hong Lim, who is known for Hong Lim Park. Together with her husband, the 69-year-old retiree will head to the cemetery soon when the weather lets up to visit her relatives' graves - her grandfather, Cheang Jim Chuan, is also buried there - for the first time.

'My mother knew that they were in Bukit Brown but she had no idea how to find the burial plot. The place is too big,' she says.

The mother-of-two says she started searching for their resting place after hearing the Goh brothers had found the grave sites because she wanted to fulfil her late mother's wishes of paying respect to their elders.

She says: 'The people who knew where the graves are are no longer around. As the present generation, we have to continue to search for them and let our future generations know, so they, too, can discover their history.'

Descendants say it is better late than never to find where their ancestors are buried as those folk contributed significantly to Singapore's development.

Mr Roney Tan has been visiting the grave of his grandfather Tan Wi Yan, grandson of philanthropist Tan Tock Seng, since he was young. His grandfather was a philanthropist himself and was active in the local community.

He feels this last piece of Singapore's history should be preserved and alternatives could be found to the proposed development plan.

The 64-year-old, who owns a furniture business, says: 'We don't learn history just for fun or only because it's interesting. The more we know about our past, the more we'll sink our roots here.'

Arguments aside, one descendant is glad to have found a grave he has been looking for for a while. Mr Peter Wee, who is the great-grandson of Tan Keong Saik, finally found the grave a few weeks ago. The 65-year-old says that searching for it was like looking for 'a needle in a haystack'.

He finally found it with help from Mr Raymond Goh. He brought along bunga rampai, a mix of potpourri and pandan leaves, to place at the grave and burnt some incense as well.

His great-grandfather's grave site is overrun with weeds, is partially hidden by shrubbery and has a tree growing on it. But Mr Wee, who is unmarried and runs Katong Antique House in East Coast Road, is delighted at the find.

He says: 'I am so happy to find him. There is that sense of awe, knowing what he did to help others during his time. By doing this, I'm fulfilling my filial piety to my great-grandfather.'

Pioneers buried at Bukit Brown


His name is familiar to activists who go to Hong Lim Park to be heard at Speakers' Corner.

Cheang, who was a wealthy Hokkien businessman, paid $3,000 to turn the space in front of Central Police Station into a public garden and hired two gardeners to maintain the plot.

He made his money running opium farms, which were popular in the 1800s. He also had a private fire brigade of 37 firemen.

The man, who died at age 52 in 1893, donated a piece of land for the rebuilding of the Fook Tet Soo Khek Temple in Tanjong Pagar.


The former red-light district near Chinatown turned chic destination of new restaurants and pubs was named after the Malaccan-born Tan, who died in 1909 at age 60, after having battled kidney problems.

Well-respected by both the local Chinese and European community at the time, he was involved in public affairs, such as the setting up of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1906. He was one of the first Chinese to have an English-speaking household and had his children learn the language.

He was a director of shipping company Straits Steamship, a member of the Tanjong Pagar Dock Board and a Justice of Peace, a title bestowed upon him when he retired.


The road to Bukit Brown was named in honour of Tan, after he lobbied hard as Municipal Commissioner for a cemetery for the Chinese.

The Penang-born businessman was involved in the opium and spirit trade and also supplied coolies to the docks. He was also known for supporting the cause of education for girls. He was said to have donated generously to causes he supported and was a member of the Society of Arts in London.

He died in 1922, leaving behind six sons and four daughters.


The famous Seah Im Road next to Harbourfront MRT was named after Ang, who was a Hokkien immigrant from Tong Ann, Quanzhou prefecture, in Fujian. He had business interests in mining, rice, rubber and trading and owned land in Malaysia and Singapore. Many of his properties were along Telok Blangah Road, which is why the road there is named after him.

The Chinese community leader was reported to have become bankrupt in 1922, having overspent on his three wives and six children. He died in 1927.


This managing director of Oversea Chinese Bank and later the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, was born in 1881 in a village in Amoy, near Fujian province in China.

He was known as a successful rubber magnate who was smart about his investments and made money by buying and selling his shares in the rubber business. He was also part of a group of businessmen who acquired the Sun Yat Sen villa in Singapore in 1937, which was later donated to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce to be preserved. The historic villa reopened last month after a $5.6-million revamp.

He died of a heart attack in 1943 and left instructions to set up the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation, which donates to charities and supports educational projects.


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It's not where you're buried ...

Tabitha Wang Today Online 6 Nov 11;

My grandmother's last wish was to be cremated and her ashes scattered into the sea. Her children complied, taking a sampan to the middle of the sea to give her a head start in her trip around the world.

Initially, when she mooted the idea, some of us tried to talk her out of it.

Without a proper grave and headstone, where would we go to remember her every Qing Ming? Where would we take our future kids to "visit" their great-grandma?

But having lived over 80 years, she'd seen many of her relatives buried, forgotten, then later exhumed - so she knew that graves were not as permanent as they once were.

Plus, as her children and grandchildren were scattered around the globe anyway, she fancied the idea of going around and calling on each of us, in a manner of speaking.

It was difficult letting go at first. We lamented the lack of a focal point to mourn her.

Twelve years after her death, though, we've come to realise how wise her decision had been. Every Qing Ming, we throw flowers into the sea - in our respective countries - to pay our respects. We don't need a headstone to remember her as she lives on in our hearts.

Whenever there is a family get-together, she is always mentioned. My uncles never fail to remember her in the grace they say before our Chinese New Year reunion dinners.

The Chinese believe that their ancestors' graves are sacred, as the feng shui or location of the burial sites will affect the fortunes of the descendents. In the old days, gangsters would desecrate the ancestral tombs of rival leaders in the belief that it would bring bad luck to the other gang.

I have noticed no particular changes in the family fortune since my great-grandfather was exhumed from the Bidadari Cemetery in the early 2000s.

Then again, maybe his body has never left, seeing as the only items they recovered when they opened his grave were his spectacles and some shirt buttons.

Those who have been following my column know that I am a strong believer in conservation, especially as modern Singapore has so few places of real heritage value now.

I am not so sure about cemeteries, though. Heritage buildings can be re-purposed into museums, restaurants and shopping malls but you can't very well turn cemeteries into a restaurant, can you?

Yes, Bukit Brown cemetery does hold the graves of many prominent Singaporeans, some people have recently pointed out. But, judging from the condition of many of the graves, has anyone really cared about them until now?

And how are these graves any more important than my great-grandfather's? He may not have been a millionaire philanthropist but he was an important and much-loved member of my family.

There is a Malay saying: "When they die, an elephant leaves behind its tusks, a tiger its stripes and a man his name." The deeds of these illustrious men are already remembered without anyone having to visit their graves.

In Hong Kong, grave sites cost as much as, if not more than, homes for the living. In fact, there is now a push to encourage cremation, with the ashes scattered at sea - as in the case of my grandmother.

Singapore only has about 700 sq km to house its 5 million people. There is only so much reclamation that can be done before its neighbours complain about boundaries.

You really can't have it both ways.

Want more homes? Then something has got to give.

Cemeteries are such an inefficient use of land space. And ironically, for feng shui reasons, they are also situated in amazing locations that are perfect for the living, too.

Take Bishan, for example. Convenient and central, it is no wonder that HDB flats there are going for record prices.

I have no doubt that once people have lost their initial squeamishness, Tengah and Bidadari are going to prove popular places to live in too.

By the way, if an apparition should turn up in Bidadari New Town giving his name as Lee Kim Siang, can you tell him his great-granddaughter says hi and can she have a 4D number please?

Tabitha Wang would like to be cremated and have her ashes turned into a diamond. That way, she'd be adding to instead of subtracting from value to the family fortunes when she dies.

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Marina teems with vibrant sea life

Keppel Bay project receives global recognition for its preservation efforts
Chang Ai-Lien Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

It could have turned into a watery graveyard for aquatic denizens during the construction of Marina at Keppel Bay.

But now, the wharf on Keppel island has become an underwater sanctuary teeming with sea life. For that, it has also become the region's first to receive international recognition for such preservation efforts.

The development, completed in 2007 at a cost of $30 million, has been awarded Clean Marina Level 3 accreditation by the Marina Industries Association of Australia.

This is an industry body for owners and operators of marine storage facilities promoting the sustainable development of marinas.

The marina has been independently audited and has met the 124 environmental assessment criteria in areas such as fuelling, waste storage and disposal, emergency planning and management of environmental practices.

There is reason for the extra effort: Despite extensive industrialisation, Singapore's reefs remain rich.

Mr Trevor Fong, the marina's general manager, said: 'As eco-consciousness becomes increasingly widespread, Marina at Keppel Bay has upped the ante to ensure that we achieve a sustainable environment by incorporating best practices in environmental conservation.'

For instance, a vacuum pump- out system ensures that sewage from vessels is not discharged into the waters. Boat owners are also encouraged to use biodegradable washing liquids and detergents when cleaning their yachts.

Marina at Keppel Bay is part of the waterfront precinct of Keppel Bay, which comprises an office building and two residential properties. On land, it has been conferred the Green Mark Gold Award by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Some of its green features include the installation of motion sensors, as well as flow-regulator taps and low-capacity water systems to reduce energy and water consumption within its clubhouse and food and beverage outlets.

It is the 26th development under Keppel Land to receive this green accolade since 2006.

Professor Peter Ng, director of the Tropical Marine Science Institute at the National University of Singapore, noted that while the green movement on land was maturing, the underwater one was just beginning.

'More and more people are beginning to appreciate nature in their backyards, so it's an advantage for developments to consider marine areas and make them as pristine as possible. It makes economic sense to do so,' he said.

Prof Ng, who is also head of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, added: 'We're sitting in the tropics. If you can get enough marine areas cleaned up, reduce the silt and leave the animals undisturbed, the marine life will come back on its own.'


Marina at Keppel Bay was built with an open concept - water is allowed to flow through the entire marina when the tides change. This is so nutrients and plankton vital for marine life and coral growth can flow through.

The team charts the marine life growth regularly, and strict policies are in place to ensure boaters play their part. For instance, a vacuum pump system is used to ensure sewage from vessels is not let out into the waters.

Boat owners are urged to use biodegradable detergents to clean their yachts.

Fishing is not allowed.


According to the Singapore Blue Plan 2009, compiled by a team of academics, environmental organisations and civil society groups, over 60 per cent of coral reefs here have been lost to development, with the rest threatened by climate change and pollution.

Sedimentation has also harmed corals here since the 1960s. Sediments coat and smother coral while reducing critical sunlight penetration, retarding their growth.

Often called the rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. Although they cover only a tiny portion of the ocean's surface, they are home to a huge chunk of marine species.

Singapore's reef area covers less than 10 sq km, but it is home to over 250 hard coral species, almost one-third of the global total.


Sixteen species of Butterfly fish have been recorded in Singapore. Their striking markings make them a popular aquarium species, although many do not do well in captivity.

This fish is among the rich collection that can be spotted at Keppel Bay. Its marina, located on Keppel island, is accessible by a bridge off Telok Blangah Road.

Visitors will see the colourful inhabitants darting around, and may even be lucky enough to spot rare sea turtles making an appearance.

The underwater conservation effort there was highlighted in Singapore Biodiversity - An Encyclopedia Of The Natural Environment And Sustainable Development, a book on Singapore's flora and fauna.


Sea fans, or gorgonians, are fairly common in Singapore, with more than 30 species recorded. Their slender branches are often home to tiny shrimp, crabs and other sea creatures.

Apart from hard coral - the foundation of the reef - Singapore's biodiversity also comprises a full spectrum of soft corals, sponges and sea fans, as well as molluscs, crustaceans and fish. Three species of giant clams have also been spotted.

Some of the sea animals and plants that have made the marina their home include the clownfish, the juvenile batfish, the tiger tail seahorse, the pink sponge, the sea slug, the broad feathery green seaweed and the oval sea grape seaweed.


The marina worked with independent conservation and nature groups to identify and capture the growth of various species there, and look at the best ways to conserve them.

Environmentalist Ria Tan, who runs nature website WildSingapore, was one of the people involved in the effort.

She said she had noticed good marine life there, including sea turtles and dolphins.

Ms Tan and other groups such as The Hantu Bloggers and Blue Water Volunteers were vital in recording and snapping sea life like the sand goby, from the surface as well as underwater.

'I think it's a wonderful effort that they're not only making it possible, but are also documenting sea life there,' she said.

'Hopefully other such developments will be encouraged to duplicate their success. It just takes building some pontoons for the marine creatures, and giving people a boardwalk to provide a view into the sea.'

More on Can beautiful marine life settle on our artificial structures? on wild shores of singapore
and on the Marina at Keppel Bay website.

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Birds ruffle residents' feathers

Agencies looking into ways to curb noisy flock that leaves messy droppings in Hougang
Judith Tan Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

Hougang resident Daniel Heng gets a rude awakening at dawn every day.

A large flock of birds, believed to be mynahs, uses the trees near his flat at Block 362, as a transit point, creating a ruckus.

'They come back every evening around 6.45pm to 7.30pm. I feel sorry for my kids, whose bedrooms directly face the tree,' he said.

Residents at two other blocks along the Hougang stretch of Upper Serangoon Road - Blocks 701 and 302 - are also affected.

Housewife Linda Lim, who lives in Block 701, said that cars parked there also 'get decorated with bird droppings'.

'It is not only unsightly but it also damages the cars' paintwork,' she added.

A Sunday Times team, on a recent weekend visit there, found parts of the walkways dotted with bird droppings. Incessant squawking from the birds was also heard for almost 45 minutes.

Mr Heng said trucks passing by at night would set off a new round of squawking, waking residents up.

During several sharing sessions, residents complained to their Member of Parliament, Mr Yaw Shin Leong.

Understanding that birds cannot be totally eliminated in an urban environment like Singapore, Mr Yaw suggested to the National Parks Board (NParks) to consider hanging old CDs on fishing lines from the tree branches.

'It is cost effective and a feasible strategy to scare away the birds,' he wrote in his letter, posted on the Facebook page of his ward.

Mr Yaw said: 'According to a pest control professional, the prism effect and random movement of the CDs will scare many birds away.'

An Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) spokesman said crows, pigeons and mynahs are 'pest birds' that are not protected under the Wild Animals and Birds Act and 'may be culled to control their populations and safeguard environment health'.

But Mr Yaw told The Sunday Times that he preferred a more humane method to bird traps and the use of poison.

Some residents suggested adopting a similar plan to that mooted for Orchard Road - using trained hawks to control the mynah and starling numbers.

An AVA spokesman said easy food availability and nesting opportunities meant the birds would congregate at such places in numbers.

In March and July, AVA received feedback related to pigeon nuisance around Blocks 701, 302 and 362. It has worked with other agencies on a situation.

AVA's spokesman said people who faced bird nuisance may use repellents, and remove food sources and nesting opportunities, or engage pest control services.

National Environment Agency (NEA) records showed two complaints in the last two years - from one resident on the mynah nuisance from the roadside trees in front of Block 362 Hougang Avenue 5.

Its spokesman said the pavements are cleaned regularly using high-pressure spray jets to wash away the bird droppings.

NParks' spokesman said it has replied to Mr Yaw and informed him that it will be consulting AVA and NEA on the feasibility of his suggestion.

NEA's spokesman felt that, pragmatically, there was no overnight solution for bird nuisance problems.

'NEA, AVA and NParks will do what is practically possible to reduce the nuisance posed to some residents. Scaring away the birds is not a sustainable solution and will only shift the problem elsewhere.'


The National Environment Agency (NEA) receives feedback on bird nuisance from the public islandwide.

Its spokesman said there is no fixed pattern as to where birds roost and forage for food but, based on the statistics, many came from Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, Eunos Crescent, Yishun Ring Road and Bedok Reservoir Road:

Total number of feedback:

2008 - 3,284

2009 - 3,585

2010 - 3,024

2011 (Jan 1 to Oct 31) - 1,977

The top three locations in the past four years:


Yishun Ring Road - 51

Bedok Reservoir Road - 49

Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 - 47


Eunos Crescent -70

Yishun Ring Road - 56

Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 - 49


Yishun Ring Road - 67

Bedok Reservoir Road - 51

Eunos Crescent - 47

2011 (Jan 1 - Oct 31):

Bishan Street 13 - 39

Yishun Ring Road - 31

Ang Mo Kio Ave 10 - 29

Judith Tan

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Malaysia: Kuala Selangor's fireflies - Eighth Wonder of the World

Our 8th Wonder of the World
Shanti Gunaratnam New Straits Times 6 Nov 11;

IT is a show unlike any other, one that has gone on for many decades, if not centuries.

Often regarded as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the biggest attraction in Kampung Kuantan, Kuala Selangor, is definitely the fireflies.

Every night, millions of fireflies put on a fabulous display for visitors to this small, sleepy coastal town from within the country and all around the world.

This glittering display transforms the area along the banks of the river in Kampung Kuantan into a fairyland of lights. Some have remarked that they are reminded of Christmas trees.

"People come here from all over the world to see the fireflies.

"It is Kampung Kuantan's biggest attraction, no doubt about that," says Harun Abdullah, who was born and bred in the village.

The 68-year-old imam of the Muhammadiah mosque says Kampung Kuantan and its fireflies are well-known, even in the holy city of Mecca.

"The fireflies are a big thing for us because this particular species, the pteroptyx tener, are rare and can be found in only one other place in the world -- Brazil -- deep in the Amazon jungle," he says.

The pteroptyx tener has been described as the Eighth Wonder of the World by many scientists because it makes three synchronised blinks in one second, making it the brightest of all fireflies.

For over a century, the mangrove forest near Kampung Kuantan has been home to the fireflies, which feed on the leaves of the berembang (sonneratia caselaris) trees.

The nectar in the leaves is what enables the fireflies to produce that 'greenish light'.

The male fireflies flicker their tail lights to attract females. The males glow brighter than the females which glow to show their acquiescence. This species of fireflies has a life span of two to three months.

Harun says visitors flock to Kampung Kuantan because they only need to hop onto a non-motorised boat and travel upstream in the mangrove swamp to take a closer look at the fireflies.

"You can't do this in the Amazon jungles.

"One will need to trek for at least 10 days in the Amazon in order to catch a glimpse of the fireflies in all their glory."

The boat rides, which are available from 7.45pm till about 10.30pm at the jetty, takes between 30 to 45 minutes.

Surrounding Kampung Kuantan are two lesser known villages, Kampung Teluk Penyamun and also Kampung Tanjung Siam.

"Kampung Kuantan and Kampung Tanjung Siam got their names when people from Pahang and Thailand respectively, moved there at the turn of the century," says Kampung Kuantan village headman Hazol Abdullah.

Kampung Teluk Penyamun got its name in the 1900s. The British called it the Bay of Pirates then because the colonialists were often robbed by the locals when they transported tin ore, coal, coconut and rubber by boat along the river.

At that time, the river was used extensively by the British to transport goods.

"The British called the locals pirates, but in reality, the locals were angry with the British for taking away their coal, tin ore, coconut and also rubber.

"Therefore, they retaliated by taking the goods back."

Hazol says the best time to visit Kampung Kuantan is on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.

"Kampung Kuantan which has about 2,000 residents comes alive during these days and also during the school holidays.

"The jetty is usually filled with visitors eager to watch the best light show on the planet."

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Malaysia: Call to protect Johor’s disappearing mangrove swamps

Nelson Benjamin The Star 5 Nov 11;

JOHOR BARU: There is an urgent need to protect the state’s mangrove swamps as they are all disappearing fast, as presently only 2% of the areas identified are left compared to 2,710ha gazetted 60 years ago.

Previously, 2,710ha of swamps along the Straits of Malacca from Ledang to Tanjung Piai and Pulau Kukup in Pontian had been gazetted as the Benut permanent forest reserve in 1950.

However, presently the Benut reserve only comprises 61.3ha as state authorities have been converting the land for other use in stages beginning 1961 until 2005, the Auditor-General’s Report 2010 said.

The report also discovered that four major areas with mangrove swamps belonging to the state government and Johor National Parks totalling 12,756ha have yet to be gazetted as permanent forest reserves despite being approved by the state authorities in 2005.

The mangrove swamps in Muar, Batu Pahat, Pontian and Pulau Kukup, which were still marked as proposed sites for forest reserves, have since been encroached by people who have started building houses and started farming on the land.

Some of the proposed areas in Tanjung Tohor in Muar and Batu Pahat have also “disappeared” due to severe soil erosion in the area.

The report also pointed out that the related agencies including the district land office and Forestry Department were unable to take action against those encroaching into the swamp areas as they have yet to be gazetted.

On the planting of mangrove trees along the Straits of Johor, the report pointed out that the project was not successful as 67% of the seedlings planted did not survive.

The report pointed out that RM270,000 had been spent on 10 such projects between 2006 to 2010 but only three projects in Muar and Benut were successful.

“In some areas in Batu Pahat, 80% to 100% of the seedlings died either due to vandalism by the locals, strong waves, pollution or even disturbances from livestock,” the report stated.

The report also stated that garbage from a landfill in Pontian had also destroyed some of the mangroves in the area after strong waves caused the banks of the site to collapse, spewing rubbish into the sea.

The Forestry Department has also been reminded to speed up its 10-year plan on the management of mangrove swamps between 2010 to 2019, as presently the plan has yet to be completed since the 2000 to 2009 plan ended.

The report also outlined three suggestions to the Forestry Department and the district land office to take to rectify the problems including to speed up the gazetting of mangrove swamps as permanent forest reserves and to cooperate with the Drainage and Irrigation Department to build geotubes to reduce the intensity of the waves to enable mangrove saplings to grow better.

The district land office has also been reminded to come up with clear guidelines to ensure no land titles were issued especially in areas near the sea or beside rivers and also for strict action to be taken against those encroaching into government land.

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Malaysia: Veggie prices soar with rain and Thai floods

The Star 6 Nov 11;

PETALING JAYA: Vegetable prices have gone up in some cases by as much as 200% because of the rainy season in the country and the massive floods in Thailand.

Federation of Vegetable Sellers Association president Tan Ban Ben said the price of cili padi, red chilli and winter melon had increased many fold due to the severe floods.

“Red chilli was initially selling at between RM4 and RM5 per kilo prior to the floods in Thailand but is now RM12 per kilo. The price of cili padi also has risen to RM12 from RM4 and RM5 per kilo,” he said yesterday.

Tan said the price of winter melon has also doubled to RM2 per kilo.

He noted that as 90% of cili padi was imported from Thailand, the association was looking into buying chillies from China and Vietnam.

“However, only a small amount of chillies will be imported from Vietnam due to high shipping charges,” he said.

Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesaler's Association president Chong Tek Keong said vegetable prices nationwide would be affected during the rainy season.

“The prices will go up further until the end of the year as Thailand is now expected to buy vegetables from Malaysia,” he said yesterday.

“Because of the floods there, we expect Thailand to start buying vegetables from our farmers from next month,” said Chong.

He said the prices of chillies, long beans and cucumbers were expected to rise, adding: “The price per kilo of chilli will be as high as RM10, and those imported from China will be around RM6 to RM7.”

The prices are only expected to drop in January after Chinese New Year, he added.

A survey of the Alor Setar Market found that red chilies were sold at RM13 to RM15 per kilo compared to RM8 previously.

A Bernama report said the price of fish had also increased sharply.

Kuala Lumpur Fruits Wholesale Association chairman Tai Kong Lin said fruit prices would remain unchanged.

When contacted, Domestic Trade, Cooperative and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he was waiting for a report on prices from his officers in Kedah.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations' (Fomca) chief executive officer Datuk Paul Selvaraj lamented the price increase, saying the rainy season should not be made an excuse for sellers to increase the prices.

“We must be self-sufficient and sustain the need for local vegetables,” he said.

He urged the Government to consider investing more on agriculture, adding: “Food security is important and by producing our own vegetables, importing won't be necessary.”

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The fight for Borneo's soul

With palm oil companies slashing vast swathes of forest, the Dayaks of West Kalimantan are desperately struggling to save their ancestral lands and way of life
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 6 Nov 11;

On the porch of a wooden house deep in West Kalimantan, a shirtless man sits, staring out at endless rows of palm oil trees surrounding his home like a besieging army. Pak Kabul does not know his exact age, only that he was born in the 1950s. Neither does he know what the future holds - except that life took a turn for the worse when a palm oil company took over the bulk of land nearby.

The company chased nearly everyone off their land; only he refused to budge, he said. These days, he and his wife, together with some chickens and pigs, live a lonely existence in the middle of a sprawling plantation about an hour by road from the nearest town, Sintang, 420 km west of Pontianak city.

They eke out a living tapping rubber, earning about 360,000 rupiah (S$51) each month. Their son teaches at a nearby village and visits sometimes. Javanese immigrants brought in to work on the plantation live nearby, but Pak Kabul does not interact with them.

He remembers better times when the land was still forested and the villagers could live off its bounty. "When we had the forest, nobody came to hurt us," he said with quiet resignation. "I have no more hope; I can only hope my son will be good." According to him, the only benefit reaped from the palm oil company is the road built through the estate.

It was this road on which we were travelling, en route to a village three hours from Sintang, that we spotted Pak Kabul and decided on impulse to stop and talk to him - and heard yet another account of the Dayak indigenous people's struggle with palm oil companies.

Our group comprised more than 20 people from countries like Australia, the Netherlands, the United States and Indonesia. Led by Dutch-born Indonesian conservationist Willie Smits, 15 young people dubbed the EcoWarriors - of whom I was one - were in West Kalimantan for a project to combat deforestation and illegal wildlife trade in partnership with local communities. Our efforts are to be made into a documentary by Australian director Cathy Henkel.

We were in West Kalimantan for 20 days in September, the first leg of a 100-day project. Accompanied by some Dayaks who have banded together to raise awareness of unlawful land grabs, we visited remote villages in the Serawai and Ambalau - the only two of Sintang's 14 sub-districts that have resisted the palm oil companies.

But for how much longer? Already, the locals speak of their livelihoods and communities being threatened by the relentless expansion plans of these companies.

The Dayaks love a good celebration, and we were welcomed warmly with traditional dances, rituals and generous amounts of a rice wine called tuak. Behind the smiles, however, lay deep anxiety for their future. The issue is not simply about the local communities depending on ancestral lands and forests to live, but about deforestation and wildlife habitat destruction - a struggle for Borneo's soul.


The third-largest island in the world, made up of Malaysia's Sabah and Sarawak states, Brunei and Indonesia's Kalimantan region, Borneo is known for its lush rainforests and stunning biodiversity. But since the 1980s and 1990s, large tracts of forests have been cleared for pulp and timber.

In the past 15 years or so, palm oil companies have moved in; according to a 2009 report commissioned by Amsterdam University's law faculty, the plantations occupied 3.2 million hectares of land in 2006, with another 2.8 million hectares cleared.

A July report by independent monitors Forest Watch Indonesia estimated that between 2000 and 2009, 1.5 million hectares of forest - an area 21 times the size of Singapore - were destroyed each year, a third of it in Kalimantan.

The villages we visited faced the very real danger of losing land that has been passed down for generations. Nearly every adult villager had a tale to tell - of suspicious tactics by palm oil company staff to survey the land, the bribery of select villagers to create rifts within the community, or the abuse of villagers who vocally opposed the companies.

In Duan village in Ambalau, a sacred burial ground is part of the land being eyed by a palm oil company. Duan practises shifting agriculture, moving to a different spot every eight years to allow land to lie fallow. This allows the companies a chance to pounce on seemingly unoccupied territory.

When we visited, the traditional village high priest opened the vault where the bones are kept for us - a rare privilege and sign of trust that our group will tell their story of struggle and desperation when we return to our home countries. He grew increasingly distressed as he told us of seven generations of high priests who have watched over the grounds.

Should the palm oil companies try to take the land, it would be a "fight to the last drop of blood", he said.

The locals also told of a villager, Joseph Obeng, who was framed by the palm oil company into accepting timber, then reported to the police for unlawful possession of it and thrown into jail.


Over 300km from Duan, the three villages of Lansat Baru, Lansat Lama and Belenyut Sibau have found 80 hectares of their land bulldozed by a palm oil company. The company had also planted saplings on the land and driven their truck in - all without having obtained the necessary permits or completing negotiations with the community, villagers claimed.

Enraged, they confiscated the keys of the truck in September. Hearing of the Eco Warriors' presence in a longhouse three hours away, the villagers travelled the bumpy, muddy roads to tell us of their plight.

The next morning, some of us drove to the disputed site. We spoke to the village leaders, and watched as they performed a traditional Dayak ceremony to stake their claim on the land, and uprooted several saplings. "Nobody has agreed to this and the palm oil company just steals and rapes our land," said a leader, Mr Yohanes Aliam.

The palm oil company retaliated - it made a police report and the following morning, another leader in the group, Mr Yunosno, was arrested and taken to the police station. Several of the Serawai-Ambalau action group bailed him out after nearly a day.

Mr Yunosno maintained that the villages had not been properly compensated for their land. But in a report by the news site, a company representative was quoted as saying the company had followed proper procedure.


The villages' struggle to hold on to their land comes about because of lax enforcement and corruption, and overlapping laws and claims for the land. Palm oil companies are supposed to go through a multi-step licensing process - securing location permits, plantation business permits, forest area release and, finally, business use permits - before clearing the land.

But this is seldom the case, going by what we observed as well as findings of the Amsterdam University report.

According to the Dayaks and Dr Smits, even if the palm oil companies present required legal documents such as environmental impact assessments of the land (known as Amdal), or papers that show the majority of villagers are pro-palm oil, their authenticity could be questionable.

A 2009 investigative report done by several non-governmental organisations found that despite "constitutional and human rights provisions which recognise customary rights in land, most local communities and indigenous peoples in Indonesia lack secure land titles". Community representatives surveyed in the report were also under the impression that they were temporarily relinquishing their land to the companies - suggesting "community leaders had not received adequate information about the law prior to entering negotiations".

The report also said that locals who sign away their land do so in hopes of receiving jobs and income. But according to Dr Smits, this is not the case. The locals end up being deeply indebted to the palm oil companies. They are paid about 600,000 rupiah for one hectare of land, and have to borrow the equivalent of thousand of dollars to buy seedlings and fertilisers from the company.

As palm oil trees take seven years to mature, a downward spiral of debt results, eventually leading the locals to lose even the 20 per cent of land allocated to them in a typical agreement with palm oil companies.


Having heard so many accounts of injustice and desperation, we searched for a glimmer of hope during our 20 days in Borneo - and found one in the village of Tembak, just after our encounter with Pak Kabul.

The village faced off with a major timber company in 1996 and won; its reply to palm oil is also an emphatic "no". As a result, roads to Tembak are undeveloped, almost impassable after heavy rains. But the 650 villagers remain united and fiercely protective of their forests, and have developed a system of turbines to generate electricity from a nearby river. They have offered us land for release of any orangutans we rescue and rehabilitate.

If other villages, through dogged struggle and maybe some help from the rest of the world, see an outcome similar to Tembak's, the future of their children would look brighter. Such victories would also be salve for Borneo's soul.

To find out more about the Eco Warriors' project, visit

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Middle East: Dugongs facing multiple threats

Khaleej Times 6 Nov 11;

ABU DHABI - The dugong (also known as Sea Cow) population in the UAE waters, the world’s second largest home for the marine mammal, is facing multiple threats, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) warned on Thursday.

“The endangered dugong species is currently facing a number of threats due to habitat loss and human-related activities such as increased marine activity, being caught in discarded fishing nets, impact with boats, marine pollution, as well as a decline of its critical natural habitat — underwater sea grass beds,” Thabit Al Abdessalaam, Director of Biodiversity Management Sector at EAD. According to the agency, the world’s second largest population of dugongs is in the UAE waters, and the importance of protecting this unique species is being highlighted in the fifth episode of ‘The Environment Show with Ask Ali’ series. This episode on the dugong is being screened at the Eco-Cinema at the ‘Bu Tinah Experience’ until November 10.

There are only 95,000 to 100,000 dugongs left in the world. Australia has 85,000, the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea bordering countries have approximately 7,300, while the remainder are located in the other range states.

“The protection of Bu Tinah Island and other dugong habitats continues to be a priority for Abu Dhabi. As our country continues to grow and develop, we must ensure that all our biodiversity and natural resources are conserved effectively,” said Al Abdessalaam.

In this episode of the documentary, viewers get a closer look at the dugong and learn why it has been classified as being ‘vulnerable to extinction’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) 2009 Red List of Threatened Species.

This index indicates how such animals face a high risk of extinction in the wild. During the programme, Ali meets with experts from the EAD who explain the threats facing the species, the importance of its existence to the future sustainability of the UAE’s biodiversity and how Bu Tinah has increasingly become a safe haven for this migratory sea mammal.

The EAD’s Dugong Conservation Programme studies the dugongs’ ecology, movement and migration patterns. The data collected over the past 10 years has enabled the EAD to better understand the health of the environment and how it should be managed to ensure long-term sustainability.

It has also helped the EAD to understand dugong behaviour and contribute to the establishment of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve.

“We are focused on ensuring that Abu Dhabi’s waters are managed in a manner which helps this globally endangered species. These efforts have enabled us to maintain the species’ population by ensuring the integrity of its key habitats and marine ecosystems,” said Abdessalaam.

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